We all have moments when things slow down and we are suddenly very present for life. We often have this ‘tuned in’ experience when we are in nature, or it it may happen when we are highly focused on some activity, or sometimes it occurs when we are simply relaxed and available for whatever is going on around us.
The word ‘mindfulness’ evokes images of spirituality and eastern religion, but surprisingly mindfulness is just the ordinary human capacity to be fully present. It is mindfulness that allows you to be here long enough to read these words. You can be mindful of the wind, the taste of your evening meal, a conversation with your partner, or the various sensations in your body.
When we are spinning in thoughts of the past and future we are not at all present, and our mindfulness has faded. When we check out from the present moment in this way, we spin off into a mental world and we lose our center. We lose touch with our body and emotions, and we become susceptible to stress and anxiety, and various conflicted emotions, such as anger. Fortunately mindfulness is natural to human beings, and as such we can train it and strengthen it.
This is where mindfulness meditation comes in. Since it was first introduced to the western world in the 1960′s mindfulness meditation has been incorporated into a range of modern day applications. For example mindfulness is utilized in corporate environments, in various forms of psychotherapy, athletic training, medical care, educational systems, stress reduction, and yes, anger management. Whole departments at major universities such as MIT are now dedicated to the study of mindfulness and its application to a broad spectrum of contemporary issues.
It is safe to say that mindfulness is a 2500 year old anger management methodology. Extensive research shows that mindfulness is helpful with anger management issues in a variety of ways. Studies show that mindfulness decreases rumination associated with anger, it increases cognitive flexibility, boosts emotional well being, and improves overall satisfaction with life. Modern science is increasingly showing what the ancients have known for millennia, that mindfulness really works.
A Mindfulness Anger Management Exercise: Working with Uncomfortable Feelings
A common issue found in individuals with anger management problems is a difficulty dealing with uncomfortable feelings. We become hyper sensitive to life’s loose ends, we are triggered by the slightest inconvenience, and we have a low threshold for anything edgy or uncomfortable. The following mindfulness anger management exercise can help.
-Choose a day and set your intention to notice whenever you feel uncomfortable.
-Throughout your day, every time you find yourself feeling uncomfortable in some way, simply notice what you do with your body. Do you start fidgeting and bite your fingernails, does your chest tighten up, or do you clench your jaw, or maybe you hold your breath?
-Take a notebook with you and write down what you notice. The idea isn’t to try and change anything, just simply notice what you do and write it in your notebook.
This ‘paying attention’ is a form of mindfulness, and it will shine the light of awareness on how you avoid uncomfortable feelings. That light itself is enough, change will come naturally from your simply being present, so don’t get in the way by trying to change anything. Just notice, write it down, and let it be. That’s it.
Once you’ve tried this for one day then you can apply it any time, and gradually you’ll become more and more familiar with your patterns of avoidance.
Craig Mollins is long time student and teacher of mindfulness, and specializes in a mindfulness approach anger management. You can learn more at his website, mindfulnessangermanagement.com